My Pigmentation Story thus Far (Including Laser Treatments) 👩🏼🔬🧪🌟
I wanted to write a post about how my skin has changed over the last couple of months and my experience using lasers to treat pigmentation. I need to issue a disclaimer to start with – this are my thoughts and opinions on the subject matter. What didn’t work for me or what does work, may not be applicable to you or the same in your experience.
My Skin History
Let’s start with some history! I have very fair skin (my background is Northern Eastern European, Polish) but my skin doesn’t automatically burn when exposed to the sun – I do tan. However, I do get freckles from the sun. I grew up in Australia and as a child in the 90s, sun protection was not as prevalent as it is now. You might have put sunscreen on at the beach but that was as far as it went in my childhood. Living in a country where the sun is exceptionally strong, I have no doubt that my skin was probably damaged to some degree and now pigmentation may be lying in the deeper levels of my skin (skin damage essentially). A small saving grace comes from the time I started seeing a Dermatologist as a young teen in order to treat my acne. I was conscious of the sun from then on, and while I’d like to say that I then wore sunscreen every day religiously since I was 13 that would be a lie 😂😂 But I did apply sunscreen more regularly, especially in summer when walking to and from school or when playing sport for example.
I never had a huge issue with pigmentation and still don’t. I don’t consider it a issue that I am self-conscious about. I’m very realistic knowing that we all have skin issues and I am blessed to not struggle severely at least on this front. However, I have also had a few small pigmentation spots on my skin here and there. Before starting my current job (about three years ago now) I underwent some IPL (intense pulsed light) treatments in order to treat my pigmentation and some broken capillaries. IPL like a lot of lasers, works to draw out pigment from the skin and break it down. I can’t say the IPL worked for my pigmentation, but I still liked the results of the treatments because my skin looked more rested and ‘rejuvenated’. IPL does boost repair functions in the skin and collagen production. I believe I had 3 IPL treatments all up. They say that for stubborn pigmentation you may have to have more than 3 treatments, but I was time strapped after starting my new job and didn’t have the brain space or will to have more treatments.
My Most Recent Experience with Laser Treatments
Fast forward three years. In between these three years, I stopped taking the contraceptive pill and my skin went NUTS. I really did not want to deal with acne again as an adult and risk damaging or scarring my skin. After about a year off the pill, I went back on it and got my skin slowly under control again. I mentioned my pigmentation spots when I saw the Dermotologist again and they were not interested in helping me on this front – Dermatologists here in Australia tend to only treat a problem if it is serve or if there’s good reason to believe it could become severe. If my remember serves me correctly (and I’m pretty sure I remember this accurately) my Dermo responded with “it’s an age thing and you can’t stop it” (regarding my pigmentation). Errr thanks Doc (not! cough cough 😓😒😒). A few months later… I got engaged and started thinking about how to get my skin in good shape. I had some broken capillaries reappear because of my acne, so I decided to think about getting laser again to treat the problem (Polish and Eastern European skin is quite thin and ‘transparent’ compared to other ethnicities, so broken capillaries are a big issue for us, probably more so than pigmentation – go figure). The clinic where I had my IPL done was no more… so the search for finding a new clinic begun. I ended up going with a clinic recommended to me by my Sister. It is relatively close by to where I live and their prices were/are reasonable. Now this new clinic didn’t offer IPL, instead they use a laser called the ‘Cutera’ to treat both pigmentation and broken capillaries. Lasers that treat pigmentation and broken cappilaries all tend to work in relatively similar ways, but the wavelengths and strength of lasers (plus their settings) and how they are applied naturally differ (this is a very simplified explanation).
I decided to have my broken capillaries treated plus pigmentation. I knew that because IPL didn’t work for my pigmentation, this new laser might not work either. I also know that lasers can draw out pigment from the deeper levels of the skin – pigment that wasn’t visible before (caused by sun damage). So you risk making your pigmentation worse. The logic is that this damage and pigment will eventually rise to the surface of the skin but the laser draws it out quickly and starts to break it down (with subsequent treatments etc). However – this is not the case with hormonal pigmentation that causes melasma for example. Pigmentation caused by sun damage can look like singular spots/freckles on the skin. Melasma on the other hand is often larger unsymmetrical blotches on the skin (give it a Google to see pictures). I also know that being back on the pill (and I am on Yasmin) can make skin more prone to both sun induced pigmentation and hormonal pigmentation. So getting the laser done was a risk I undertook willingly. Having fair skin makes you a better candidate for laser because your skin lacks pigmentation generally. Darker skin tones are told to stay away from lasers and it can get confusing for those who fall ‘inbetween’ ‘fair’ and ‘dark’.
So did I experience positive or negative results? I had four treatments to treat both my pigmentation and broken capillaries. The Cutera laser worked really well in treating my broken capillaries. It was a bit frustrating that the head of the laser has to sit completely ‘flat’ on the skin. This means that it is difficult to treat broken capillaries around the nose where you have ridges and curves. If the laser is shot in an area where there is space in-between the laser head and skin, the heat and light is dispersed and less targeted. It can cause blisters due to the heat and won’t treat the capillaries strongly enough to break them down. So this was a bit frustrating because the nose is where I get most of my broken capillaries – the ridge of the nose and around the nostrils and the laser couldn’t get ‘into’ all of these curves to sit flat against the skin. Cutera the company should create more smaller lasers for these areas, but that is really just a small complaint. My broken capillaries have been reduced probably by 80%. And that’s fantastic for me!
Sometimes it’s best to be photographed in dim light LOL
Now onto the pigmentation…
After my laser treatments, I didn’t notice that my pigmentation spots got darker straight after a treatment. They are generally supposed to get darker immediately after a laser treatment and then break down over the coming weeks. You repeat the process a few times (and you give your skin break in-between treatments, generally a couple of weeks) for the best results. But the darkening of the pigmentation spots doesn’t always happen to everyone. For me because my spots didn’t darken immediately after a treatment and then lighten, it was really hard to tell if the laser treatment was working. My therapist said at my appointments that the pigmentation was lightening from what she could tell. I should also mention that my whole face wasn’t treated, but problem areas were. My problem areas were some spots on my cheeks and temples. The therapist mentioned I had some spots around my hairline (I never noticed these) so she also treated my hair line.
I had four treatments all up. After my four treatments the spots I wanted to treat on my cheeks (that annoy me) are still there. I do not think they lightened at all. Unfortunately for me, I now have melasma pigmentation on my hairline. It was not there before. This isn’t the therapists fault (I thought she was great) but this is the problem I have with these laser clinics….
Skin clinicians that aren’t Dermatologists, even if they are Nurses, cannot usually (90% of the time) distinguish between sun induced pigmentation and hormonal pigmentation. So they generally can’t look at your pigmentation spots and tell you what caused them and what treatment would work best for you given that hormonal pigmentation should not be treated by lasers (generally speaking). So the whole thing is a massive gamble…. How can you treat something you don’t understand the cause of??? Add the different medications you might be on (which are all causing reactions with each other), age, environmental variables you might be exposed to and your ethnicity plus genetic history, and you’ve got alllll of these interconnecting factors that make using lasers really, really complex and difficult to predict.
I’m not saying that at reputable clinics the training isn’t extensive. Hell, some clinics in Australia employ registered nurses! BUT even if they know how to use a laser safely, which medications you definitely can’t be on when being treated by a laser etc. etc. they don’t understand all the complex interconnecting factors (mentioned just before) and how they will affect your results. Sure, a Dermatologist can’t predict everything either, but they are a Doctor that knows a whooooole lot more on the subject. I’m just really, really frustrated by all of this. Yes, I should have known better. And that’s what probably annoys me most. I read a book by Harold Lancer agggges ago (and even reviewed it on the blog here) who is a Dermatologist in LA. In his book, he writes that most skin concerns can be treated topically if the right products and ingredients are used. He also goes on to say that if you do treat your skin by any other methods, to only see and be treated by a doctor (a Dermatologist to be exact). Not by and assistant and not by a nurse. A Dermatologist. uhdjksfhjagduai. Again, I’m the idiot.
At my last laser appointment I was treated by a different therapist than usual, who suggested that instead of having more laser treatments, to try things like peels and LED light therapy. What annoys me about that is that you have the laser treatment done and yet you are still recommended to do other timely and costly treatments. I have no problem in these treatments in themselves, but I did the laser in order to fix the problem, not to make it worse and then do more treatments. Kudos to this therapist for acknowledging that laser may not be the best for my situation (some other clinics out there would probably recommend more laser treatments – just keep going!). She was really knowledgable and really helpful – and yes, I should have done the peels etc. first before considering laser- it just annoys me that lasers are offered at the beginning. I know that customers are ‘Kings’ and if they want lasers, lasers will be offered on the market, but I just have a problem with how this all works and how it is being sold. The consumers are also to blame here.
I am not going to mention the clinic I went to by name. The reason for this is because I don’t want my opinion and experience to be misconstrued by anyone. The clinic I was treated at was very professional, the girls working there are really knowledgeable and well trained. The prices of services are also reasonable. This clinic was certainly one of the better ones on the market (I shudder to think of the dodgy places that exist out there). The intent of the post is to share my opinion and thoughts about the process after the fact. If anyone wants to know the clinic I went to in Western Sydney, you can send me an email and I will let you know. I would have other treatments done at this clinic (like light therapy) but nothing invasive and no lasers for me anymore.
The lesson I learned? Anything that you chose to do that’s invasive (including botox, fillers, laser treatments) only do in a Dermatologist’s office and by a Dermatologist. Yes, Dermatologists here in Australia don’t want to treat small ‘problems’. I understand this logic, but problems are relative right? There’s also nothing wrong with wanting to prevent an issue from getting bigger by fixing a ‘smaller problem.’ There is a branch of Dermatology called aesthetic dermatology, and Aesthetic Dermatologists are quite common in places like Europe. There’s a whole host of private Aesthetic Dermatology clinics in Poland that a reputable and very highly regarded, so it’s such a shame that they are ‘rare’ here in Australia 😭😭😭 Maybe it’s even a cultural thing? Yes, they are costly because they are medical ‘specialists’ but gosh, I would still recommend seeing one if you want to do anything invasive. I would love to find a good aesthetic dermatologist here in Sydney, so if anyone knows someone, please let me know. For the time being I will be treating my skin with acids, pigmentation targeting serums and 1% retinol at home. My pigmentation problem isn’t a massive one so I don’t lose sleep over it (I have bigger problems to deal with – ha! 😝). However, I know others may be self-conscious of theirs and want to explore options.
Above is my experience and my experience only. You are free to do what you wish as are others! There is no judgement here (for example, my Sister is a fan of laser treatments and the clinic I went to – I don’t think she will stop going lol!). I’d love to hear your thoughts and your experiences 🤓 Dr. Lancer, hats off to you Sir. 😜🧐🥳🥳
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